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Cynthia

Audible listener who's grateful for a long commute!

Monrovia, California, United States | Member Since 2012

4412
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 174 reviews
  • 174 ratings
  • 0 titles in library
  • 65 purchased in 2014
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  • Willful Blindness: Why We Ignore the Obvious at Our Peril

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 2 mins)
    • By Margaret Heffernan
    • Narrated By Margaret Heffernan
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (136)
    Performance
    (95)
    Story
    (92)

    Margaret Heffernan argues that the biggest threats and dangers we face are the ones we don't see - not because they're secret or invisible, but because we're willfully blind. A distinguished businesswoman and writer, she examines the phenomenon and traces its imprint in our private and working lives, and within governments and organizations, and asks: What makes us prefer ignorance? What are we so afraid of? Why do some people see more than others? And how can we change?

    Lynn says: "Why We Ignore What Is About Us"
    "How Not to Be the Blind Leading the Blind"
    Overall
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    Margaret Heffernan's "Willful Blindness: Why we Ignore the Obvious at Our Peril" (2011) is in Audible's Nonfiction:Science & Technology:Social Science, along with Malcolm Gladwell's books, including "Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking" (2005) and "The Tipping Point: How Little Things Make a Big Difference" (2007). Jefferson's "Willful Blindness" is definitely on par with Gladwell's work, but without the publicity Gladwell has, I'm worried that not enough people will find out just how great this book is for people who want to understand what individual and organizational psychological problems can cause monumental failures.

    Heffernan begins with a dramatic description of a tragic British Petroleum disaster - but not the 2010 Deep Water Horizon blow out that killed 11 workers and badly harmed a great deal of the coast of the United Stated. She describes the 2005 Texas City Refinery explosion that killed 15 workers and wreaked havoc on a vital part of the economy. Some of the factors that made the workers blind to the problem that caused the explosion were lack of sleep caused by long shifts with not enough time off; not enough workers; and poor design of equipment. Management at the local level didn't have the power to change the situation, and executives determined to cut costs refused to hear them. What's surprising to Heffernan is that when BP's Deep Water Horizon blew, people were astounded. The management and the corporate culture hadn't changed. Why wouldn't it happen again?

    Heffernan's book is full of similar case studies, some well known - like the federal government's disastrous handling of Hurricane Katrina. Some are not well known - like the installation of pumps that will not work in New Orleans after Katrina.

    Once again, I do wish Audible had a true table of contents. Since it doesn't, here it is (with thanks to Google Books): Introduction; 1. Affinity and Beyond; 2. Love is Blind; 3. Dangerous Convictions; 4 The Limits of Your Mind; 5. The Ostrich Instruction; 6. Just Following Orders; 7. The Cult of Cultures; 8. Bystander; 9. Out of Sight Out of Mind; 10. De-Moralizing Work; 11. Cassandra; 12. See Better. Chapter 11, which starts with the myth of Cassandra, who was gifted with knowing the truth and the future but cursed not to be believed, is a powerful discussion about encouraging those in an organization who know the truth to speak up.

    Heffernan narrates the book herself, and it was hard to get used to her unusual accent. I checked her bio, and she was born in Texas, raised in the Netherlands, and attended college in England. No wonder I couldn't place it.

    I definitely recommend this book for managers and executives who want to strengthen their teams.

    [If you found this review helpful, please let me know by clicking the helpful button. And Audible, how about adding this one to the Business section also???]

    21 of 26 people found this review helpful
  • The Up Side of Down: Why Failing Well Is the Key to Success

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 38 mins)
    • By Megan McArdle
    • Narrated By Mia Barron
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (67)
    Performance
    (57)
    Story
    (57)

    Most new products fail. So do most small businesses. And most of us, if we are honest, have experienced a major setback in our personal or professional lives. So what determines who will bounce back and follow up with a home run? If you want to succeed in business and in life, Megan McArdle argues in this hugely thought-provoking book, you have to learn how to harness the power of failure. McArdle has been one of our most popular business bloggers for more than a decade, covering the rise and fall of some the world' s top companies and challenging us to think differently about how we live, learn, and work.

    Ray says: "Good Book"
    "Successful Failures"
    Overall
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    'm not a 'B-School graduate'. My undergraduate degrees is in Business Administration. It's from a prestigious private university. I could have chosen to go on to get a Master's from the same place. Instead, I chose to get a Juris Doctor, and I've been a litigator ever since.

    Do I want to manage people? Unless it's a trial team assembled on an ad hoc basis, I would rather clean tile grout with a toothbrush. I still love the theory of business management. I've been following it for the last quarter century. I work for a Major Company (you've heard of it) and I get to watch how the theories come and go, from the managed point if view.

    Some trends are a flash, or so radical they won't happen for at least a generation - but it Is fun to watch management try the ideas. Adam Grant's "Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success" (2013) is an example. Nice idea, but it didn't work for the Soviet Union (1922 - 1991) and it's not working now. It might eventually - but the world's leading economy, the United States, and it's business leaders aren't at the tacit socialism Grant proposes.

    Megan McArdle's "The Upside of Down: Why Failing Well Drives Our Success" (2014) discusses a "trend" that's working well, from the perspective of the managed worker: learning from failure. I'm using "trend" in quotes because it sounds like a facile lesson, but it's really not. It's also not new - "Billion Dollar Lessons: What You Can Learn from the Most Inexcusable Business Failures of the Last 25 Years" (2008) is a wonderful book on the same subject by Paul B. Carroll and Chunka Mui.

    After discussing Old Coke/New Coke (THE quintessential B-mistake), "The Upside of Down" and "Billion Dollar Lessons" talk about different failures; the ways to approach and analyze them; and their causes.

    McArdle distinguishes an accident as "while there's lots of things you could have done differently, there's nothing you should have done differently" (Chapter 5 on Audible) and "failure" as a "mistake, performing without a safety net." It's a good way to distinguish them. McArdle emphasizes that a lot of mistakes are the result of large, well funded research that carefully asks exactly the wrong questions, or asks the right questions in the wrong situation.

    "The Upside of Down" is thought provoking, but there's an issue that I'd like to see addressed more fully: how to create an atmosphere where employees aren't subtly - or sometimes even overtly - required to hide mistakes, especially those that can compound and result in failure. After all, even one of the world's most successful investors, Warren Buffett, reported an $873,000,000 investing mistake to shareholders May 1, 2014. Referring to a bad investment, Buffett said, "Most of you have never heard" of the company, he wrote. "Consider yourselves lucky; I certainly wish I hadn't." What a no-nonsense way to share a problem without sharing the blame.

    The Audible narrator was fine, but the editing was rough - there were some long pauses.

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    6 of 9 people found this review helpful
  • The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks

    • UNABRIDGED (20 hrs and 26 mins)
    • By National Commission on Terrorist Attacks
    • Narrated By Ken Borgers, Sal Giangrasso, Charlton Griffin, and others
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (383)
    Performance
    (92)
    Story
    (89)

    The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, also known as the 9-11 Commission, was created by congressional legislation and the signature of President George W. Bush in late 2002. This independent, bipartisan commission had the task of producing a full and complete account of the circumstances surrounding the attack, including preparedness and immediate response, and providing recommendations designed to guard against future attacks.

    SLP says: "Absolutely Outstanding Historical Document"
    "Still so very relevant"
    Overall
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    At the beginning of every September, A&E takes a few hours away from 'reality' shows like "Duck Dynasty", "Storage Wars" and "Flipping (some American city hit hard by the Great Recession)" and shows actual reality - 9/11 documentaries, or somtimes, sanitized 9/11 docudramas. The History Channel sets aside "Ice Road Truckers" and "Ax Men" and returns to its roots and spends the weekend showing various aspects of 9/11, from a long interview of former New York Mayor Rudy Guiliani to a three hour show exploring conspiracy theories.

    I don't watch those shows, but it's not out of sense of boredom or a misplaced sense of outrage that basic cable is exploiting the anniversary. 9/11 is history, and just like my father has had a life long fascination with World War II (he was alive for the bombing of Pearl Harbor) I have a fascination for what happened, and why, that beautiful September morning. The reason I don't watch the shows is first, I'm really primarily a reader/listener; second, "The 9/11 Comission Report" (2004) is so thoroughly researched and well written, it was a finalist for a National Book Award, and no non-fiction show compares to it; and, finally, I was watching CNN as the attacks happened. I don't have to see what happened on video again. I remember all too well.

    I read the entire book on line in 2004, and every year since then, I listen to parts of this book. I've been doing this long before I joined Audible. Since the book has always been in the public domain, it's been available through Librivox for years. The Librivox version was read by 19? 20? volunteer readers, the year of its release, and the quality ranges from astoundingly good to mediocre, especially with pronunciation of The Middle Eastern names. After 10 years of war, we are all mich better at Arabi names.

    The question is, isn't whether the book is worth the time. It most definitely is. It's like reading/listening to a Tom Clancy on steroids. So, then, is it worth it to buy on Audible a book you can listen to or read on line for free? It definitely was and is for me. I was able to easily download it to my iPhone, although it's 200 + mB, so make sure you're on WiFi when you do. It's well narrated, and the production quality smooth. The speed of the narration is a bit of an issue - one narrator is much slower than the others. Listen to that narrator at 1.25 speed, and it's fine.

    Which leads me to why I listen or read, year after year. I worry that I'll forget. No, I'll never forget some things - like watching the second plane crash into the other tower, as it happened. But I worry that I'll forget the littler things, like Barbara Olson, the wife of then Solicitor General Theodore Olson, was on Flight 77 when it was hijacked and crashed into the Pentagon, and she called him during the hijack. Conservative Theodore Olson was fresh from successfully representing George Bush in Bush v Gore (2000). Theodore Olson subsequently turned to Gore's lawyer, David Boies, and together, they were responsible for overturning laws against same sex marriage. I wonder if somejow, that singular assault on democracy on 9/11 made Theodore Olson a formidable champion of civil rights for a group that hadn't been embraced by the political right.

    This book also has the clearest explanation of Islam and the difference between Shi'ite and Sunni Muslims that I've found. It explains a Caliphate - which is even more relevant today than it was 10 years ago, when the report was published. The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (prosaically nicknamed ISIS) controls far more land than Osama bin Laden ever did.

    I listen to remember; to think of how we all changed; and to keep trying to understand why.

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    7 of 10 people found this review helpful
  • Curse of the Pogo Stick: The Dr. Siri Investigations, Book 5

    • UNABRIDGED (5 hrs and 39 mins)
    • By Colin Cotterill
    • Narrated By Clive Chafer
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (71)
    Performance
    (58)
    Story
    (60)

    In Vientiane, Laos, a booby-trapped corpse intended for Dr. Siri, the national coroner, has been delivered to the morgue. In his absence, only Nurse Dtui’s intervention saves the lives of the morgue attendants, visiting doctors, and Madame Daeng, Dr. Siri’s fiancée.

    Cynthia says: "Curse of the Audible Series Addict"
    "Curse of the Audible Series Addict"
    Overall
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    Story

    I'm out of credits for the month. I have at least half-a-dozen Audible books bought on special, waiting for a listen, so I'm not totally bereft of listening options. But Audible, Audible, how about a BOGO on books in a series? I'll have to pause at Book 5 "Curse of the Pogo Stick" (2008) until I can afford last 4 Dr. Siri Paiboun mysteries.

    At the end of the civil war when the communists have assumed power, 72 year old Comrade Dr. Siri Paiboun, a French trained Laotian field doctor longs to quietly retire. Instead, he is pressed into very reluctant service as the National Coroner of Laos. Book 1 "The Coroner's Lunch" introduces Dr. Siri, who's learning to do autopsies with an outdated French textbook. The stunningly green eyed Dr. Siri is a catch for any woman who remembers a time when a radio was an even greater technological sea change than the iPhone. Dr. Siri runs into Madame Daeng on Book 4 - and in Book 5, he marries in a boring bureaucratic exchange of paperwork, followed by a traditional wedding. A pregnant Nurse Dtui and her investigator husband, Posee (spelling, I don't know!) and a cheerful Mr. Gueng are there to celebrate.

    Shortly after their ceremony, a Hmong clan badly in need of supernatural assistance kidnaps Ya Ming. That's a particular problem for Dr. Siri, who is the physical host for the ancient spirit. Ya Ming is able to help the Hmong with their problem; and Dr. Siri solves a more human mystery at the same time. As always with Cotterill, the spiritual is a neat listen and a respectful introduction to non-Western beliefs, but the earthbound mystery isn't solved by 'idolum ex machina'.

    The narrator is smooth, and his British? Australian? English is smooth, and he handles Laotian and Hmong words easily.

    Worth the credit, as always. And my birthday is coming up - now I've got something to ask for.

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    10 of 13 people found this review helpful
  • Anarchy and Old Dogs: The Dr. Siri Investigations, Book 4

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 42 mins)
    • By Colin Cotterill
    • Narrated By Clive Chafer
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (77)
    Performance
    (59)
    Story
    (59)

    An elderly man has been run down by a logging truck on the street in Vientiane just opposite the post office. His body is delivered to the morgue of Dr. Siri Paiboun, the official and only coroner of Laos. At the age of 73, Siri is too old to be in awe of the new communist bureaucrats for whom he now works. Before he can identify the corpse, he must decipher a letter in the man’s pocket—it is written in invisible ink and in code.

    Cynthia says: "CSI: Vientiane, Laos"
    "CSI: Vientiane, Laos"
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    I used to have a crush on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation's Dr. Gil Grissom, so adeptly played by William Petersen. And Petersen as Will Graham in Michael Mann's "Manhunter" (1986)? Based on Thomas Harris' 1981 "Red Dragon" prequel to the book/film "The Silence of the Lambs" (1988/1991), Petersen as a fictional investigator is tenacious and cooly ironic.

    Gil Grissom/William Petersen, I'm sorry. I will always admire your entomological wizardry - but my forensic adoration had been replaced with the 1977 version of Dr. Siri Paiboun, the 73 year old National Coroner of Laos. Dr. Siri's impossibly green eyes are a tell that he is the host of a millennia-old sprit - but only Buddhists "in the know" recognize the shaman Ya Ming in the Laotian National Coroner.

    In Colin Cotterill's "Anarchy and Old Dogs" (2007), the resourceful Dr. Siri is faced with a puzzle Georges Simenon's Inspector Maigret would love. The question wasn't how an elderly man died: it was the result of a marriage of a poorly made Soviet truck with badly designed brakes, and a man blinded by cataracts who couldn't have seen it coming. Dr. Siri's question: who was the man, and why had he just picked up a blank "letter" sent from a town near the Thai border?

    Dr. Siri's sardonic comments about communism and bureaucracy are a wonderful complement to the equally snarky repartee of his oldest friend, Comrade Civilai. Civilai and Dr. Siri are both founding members of the Pathet Lao. Civilai's adept maneuvering has gotten him party respect, a large house, and even access to a plane and pilot. Dr. Siri uses Civilai's privileges to solve the mystery, and to find romance.

    I enjoyed the narration - as always, Clive Chafer's pronunciation of Lao, Hmong, and French words are an easy listen.

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    8 of 12 people found this review helpful
  • FREE The Gray Man

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 41 mins)
    • By Mark Greaney
    • Narrated By Jay Snyder
    Overall
    (1294)
    Performance
    (1142)
    Story
    (1164)

    Court Gentry is known as The Gray Man - a legend in the covert realm, moving silently from job to job, accomplishing the impossible, and then fading away. And he always hits his target. But there are forces more lethal than Gentry in the world. And in their eyes, Gentry has just outlived his usefulness. Now, he is going to prove that for him, there's no gray area between killing for a living-and killing to stay alive.

    Rollin says: "Gripping, unremitting action"
    "WETSU, Gentry, WETSU!"
    Overall
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    Mark Greaney's 'Gray Man' is Courtland Gentry, the quintessential loan wolf American assassin/hero. Gentry is a patriot and soldier, abandoned by a fickle Central Intelligence Agency he served as a paramilitary soldier. He's not DEVGRU veteran or a Special Forces operative. Gentry's got the same - or even better - training, but with unlimited financial resources and the stamina and speed of an endurance athlete.

    Since "The Gray Man" (2009) is the start of a series, I'm not spoiling the story by mentioning Gentry survives. The plot - and the suspense - is the number of bad guys that end up dead, and in what nearly impossible way Gentry kills them. Why is Gentry being chased by covert assassination organizations from two dozen second and third world countries? Who is the real brains and what is the real reason for what's happening? Does the weaponry/science work? And is it well written, and worth the listen?

    Grearney, of course, answers the first few questions. As to the weaponry/science issue - well, I found one really obvious "no way would that EVER work" scientific scenario (I am a veteran and I do know my armaments) but by the time it happened - well, I was completely hooked. Maybe the particular emptying of cartridges and subsequent explosion could never have worked, but I could have come up with something that did - and I was too enamored of Gentry to let Greaney fail him.

    At the same time I listened to - and really enjoyed - "The Gray Man" I wondered what Audible algorithm or Amazon metric pointed me to this book and this author. I have yet to have a mystery solved by a cat show up as a suggested purchase; I've never read or listened to a book involving aliens, or crystals, or both; and as to romances - well, I listened to one once because the author and I share a last name, and for the first time ever, invoked Audible's "No questions asked" return policy. I realized that as a listener/reader of some fiction and a lot of non-fiction military history, I must fit some psychological/marketing profile. Audible, can you let me know what that is? I'll forward it to my therapist - it will probably save six months of analysis.

    This is not the book the 2007 movie "The Gray Man" was based on. That's about Howard Hamilton "Albert" Fish, one of the first identified psycho-sexual serials in America, who was given that sobriquet before he was executed in 1936. Grearney's Gray Man, with his unshakable sense of right, is the moral opposite of that long ago psychopath.

    The title of this review comes from a response my basic training platoon had to a drill command. It's pronounced 'wet sue' and it means "We Eat This S*** Up".

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    2 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • Disco for the Departed: The Dr. Siri Investigations, Book 3

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 46 mins)
    • By Colin Cotterill
    • Narrated By Clive Chafer
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (93)
    Performance
    (76)
    Story
    (75)

    Dr. Siri Paiboun is summoned to the mountains of Huaphan Province, where for years the leaders of the current communist government hid in caves, waiting to assume power. Now a major celebration of the new regime is scheduled to take place, but an arm is found protruding from the concrete walk laid from the president’s former cave hideout to his new house beneath the cliffs. Siri must supervise the disinterment of the body attached to the arm, identify it, and determine the cause of death.

    Cynthia says: "It's a Dead Man's Party"
    "It's a Dead Man's Party"
    Overall
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    Tony Hillerman (1925 - 2008) introduced me to Navajo culture when I picked up a used paperback copy of "The Blessing Way" (1970), laying between small metal cutouts of boots painted turquoise with magnets glued to the back, and a worn and rusted set of metric wrenches at Peddlers Pass in Prescott, AZ. For a few charmed hours, I was transported into a Native American culture nothing like the Ojibwa I was a little familiar with.

    Before I listened to Colin Cotterill's Dr. Siri Paiboun series, Laos merged into Cambodia/Thailand/Vietnam, just like all Native American tribes were somehow lumped together in my mind before Hillerman's books. Thanks to the epic journey from one end of Laos to the other of Siri's morgue assistant, Mr. Geung in "Disco for the Departed" (2006), I know that Laos is (or was) no more homogenized than any other tribal region. "The Coroner's Lunch" (2004) Book 1 introduced Dr. Siri and his resident spirit, Ya Ming ; "Thirty-three Teeth" (2005) Book 2 introduces the kind, sturdy autodidact Nurse Dtui; and this book - Book 3 shows how people with Down syndrome can preserver over incredible odds.

    In "Disco for the Departed", old communist party fighter Dr. Siri solves an old, undiscovered mystery in the caves he and his comrades fought the war from. Deposed Laos royalty continues to play a small, fascinating role in the story. The ghosts that haunt the Disco are a good counterpart to the story, but - in the tradition of all good mysteries - spiritus ex machina does not solve the case.

    I don't actually know if the Lao pronunciations are right, but I assume Cotterill - who lived in Laos for years but was raised In an English speaking country - chose Clive Chafer as a narrator because his Lao and Hmong pronunciation was good. I didn't need an audio version to enjoy Hillerman's books, but I'm around enough native Navajo speakers when I visit Arizona to know how to read what I'm seeing. Since I don't know Lao or Hmong, the Audible worked especially well for me.

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    5 of 10 people found this review helpful
  • The Other Side of History: Daily Life in the Ancient World

    • ORIGINAL (24 hrs and 28 mins)
    • By The Great Courses, Robert Garland
    • Narrated By Professor Robert Garland
    Overall
    (980)
    Performance
    (883)
    Story
    (874)

    Look beyond the abstract dates and figures, kings and queens, and battles and wars that make up so many historical accounts. Over the course of 48 richly detailed lectures, Professor Garland covers the breadth and depth of human history from the perspective of the so-called ordinary people, from its earliest beginnings through the Middle Ages.

    Mark says: "Tantalizing time trip"
    "When the Mundane makes History Real"
    Overall
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    The Villa of the Papyri is nestled on the bluffs of the Pacific Palisades in California. Finished in 1974, it was closed for renovations and reopened in 2010 as "The Getty Villa." J. Paul Getty's Villa - and The Getty Center in West Los Angeles are, as Getty promised, free to all.

    Okay, maybe the original Villa dei Papiri was in Herculaneum, which was destroyed in AD 79 - along with Pompeii - when Mt. Vesuvius erupted. Pompeii is now temporarily at the California Science Center in Exposition Park, near the LA Coliseum and USC.

    I coincidentally finished listening to Dr. Robert S. J. Garland's "The Other Side of History: Daily Life in the Ancient World" (2010) just before I took out of town family to the Pompeii exhibit. Garland's lectures were so concise and vivid, I recognized every single artifact and I knew what it was used for - and keep in mind, I listened to the Audible version which doesn't come with books. I knew what kind of artisan made something, the training they had, and whether they were a slave, a manumitted slave, or free born. I looked at a restored fresco, and impressed my sister by telling her that the ancient Romans would have changed the painted scene as fashions changed. Trends and fads are as old as Ancient Greece. Just as the 1980's Laura Ashley overstuffed and frilled pastels and floral wallpaper gave way to furniture and frames various hues of the same color, tailored linens, hardwood floors and painted walls 30 years later, the painted harbor scene popular during one emperor's reign gave way to starkly contrasting blocks of color, proving that abstractionism isn't a modern construct. I even knew when I got to the gift shop which replica jewelry belonged with the exhibit, and the social class of the women who would have worn it. It didn't stop me from buying the regionally misplaced and historically non-existent Sphinx earrings just because I liked anyway.

    The title of this series of lectures is a misnomer, though. Garland's lectures on Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, Ancient Egypt, and to a limited extent Ancient Persia, are worth the price and the listen. However, he's missing entire major ancient civilizations: China's written history is more than 4,000 years old; there's the Mayans, who were a civilization for about 3000 years, until the Spanish arrived, with their viruses, in 900 AD; and many other cultures that flourished and vanished or were absorbed by conquerors. These civilizations had writing, so they were historic, not pre-historic.

    If the title had been accurate, I'd give this 4 instead of a 3. It's not higher because some of the lectures are repetitive. I did enjoy Dr. Gardner's voice and his delivery, but I wasn't so excited that I listened to more than one lecture a day.

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    7 of 9 people found this review helpful
  • Thirty-Three Teeth: The Dr. Siri Investigations, Book 2

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 40 mins)
    • By Colin Cotterill
    • Narrated By Clive Chafer
    Overall
    (136)
    Performance
    (115)
    Story
    (113)

    Feisty Dr. Siri Paiboun is no respecter of persons or party; at his age he feels he can afford to be independent. In this, the second novel in the series, he travels to Luang Prabang, where he communes with the deposed king who is resigned to his fate: it was predicted long ago. And he attends a conference of shamans called by the Communist Party to deliver an ultimatum to the spirits: obey party orders or get out.

    Kathi says: "Parts of this book were very interesting--not all"
    "Quincy, ME in Laos"
    Overall
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    From 1976 to 1983, Jack Klugman ruled a fictional Los Angeles County Coroner's Office as Chief Medical Examiner Quincy in the series "Quincy M. E." The daring forensic scientist was brilliant, quirky and had an abiding social conscience that made him the target of unethical businessmen and corrupt politicians.

    Imagine the fictional Quincy in Southeast Asia - Laos to be specific - in the late 1970's after the Americans (who were never officially there) are gone and the communists have taken over, and you've got French-trained Siri Paiboun, MD. Siri served as a physician with the Lao Communist Army for decades. At 72, when the monarchy that ruled the Kingdom of Laos finally fell, Siri hoped to retire. Instead, his comrades insisted it was his duty to continue to serve the people as National Coroner.

    Siri serves with the same unerring moral compass if Klugman's Quincy, salted and cured with a liberal dose of cynicism. Siri doesn't have basic resources to do his job, but with the assistance if Nurse Dtui (pronounced "two ee") and laboratory assistant Mr. Geung, the job gets done anyway. Colin Cotterill's "Thirty-three Teeth" introduces Dtui in greater detail than in Book One, and her fragile but fierce mother might represent all Laotian mothers.

    Siri's got an advantage most coroners lack: he's haunted, literally, by a spirit named Ya Ming. Other spiritualists recognize Ya Ming by his brilliant green eyes, which Siri shares. Ya Ming also has 33 teeth - a clue to this exotic mystery.

    I would never have gotten the Lao pronunciations right if I'd read the book instead of listening to it. It would have been like being poked on the ribs during a movie - distracting and annoying. I'm glad I went for the Audible.

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    6 of 10 people found this review helpful
  • Heft

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 44 mins)
    • By Liz Moore
    • Narrated By Kirby Heyborne, Keith Szarabajka
    Overall
    (1476)
    Performance
    (1331)
    Story
    (1335)

    Forrmer academic Arthur Opp weighs 550 pounds and hasn’t left his rambling Brooklyn home in a decade. Twenty miles away in Yonkers, seventeen-year-old Kel Keller navigates life as the poor kid in a rich school and pins his hopes on what seems like a promising baseball career - if he can untangle himself from his family drama.

    Deborah says: "Mesmerizing Performance"
    "Ignatius P. Reilly as Inspiration"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    The first really, really fat fictional character I met was John Kennedy Toole's (1937 - 1969) Ignatius P. Reilly, the hero of "A Confederacy of Dunces" (1980). No, the dates aren't typos - and neither is 1981, the year Toole's book was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Toole's Reilly is New Orleans personified, in all of its excess, insular and corpulent glory.

    Liz Moore's 550 pound Arthur Opp of "Heft" (2012) is no Ignatius P. Reilly, but Opp, the reclusive, disgraced night school college professor bears an uncanny literary resemblance to the actual writer Toole. Moore has an MFA from Hunter College, where Toole was an instructor long before Moore was born. I've never taken a writing class, but in my imagination, college professors of both sexes wear tweed blazers with leather elbow patches, a la Reilly; scuffed brown loafers with tassels; and stride confidently in front of a full classroom making Important Observations about Prize Winning Literature that will Inspire eager new college students.

    Opp the literary character never inspired anyone except Yonkers-born and raised Charlene Turner. Charlene went to one semester of night school, dropped out, married, and had a son, Arthur "Kel" Keller. After her divorce, Charlene got a job at Westchester Prep School, where students dress carefully in The Right Clothes and a Mercedes for their 16th birthday is a modest gift. Kel is allowed to attend, and fits in surprisingly well. Kel may be from the wrong zip code, but an ace three sport athlete is welcome just about anywhere.

    Both Opp's and Kel's lives are fragile constructs, and as William Butler Yeats famously said, "Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold" ("The Second Coming," 1919). If Charlene Turner was the centre, "Heft" is the story of the fall and eventual rise of both men.

    "Heft" uses two narrators. The Opp narrator, Keith Szarabajka, sounds quite large and almost out of breath. The performance reminded me a bit of Adam Arkin's performance as Dale Biederbeck in the television show "Mr. Monk Meets Dale the Whale" (2002). Kirby Heyborne was convincing as a teenager.

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    7 of 14 people found this review helpful
  • Code Talker: The First and Only Memoir by One of the Original Navajo Code Talkers of WW II

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 36 mins)
    • By Chester Nez, Judith Schiess Avila
    • Narrated By David Colacci
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (501)
    Performance
    (435)
    Story
    (444)

    Chester Nez, the only surviving member of the original twenty-nine Navajo code talkers, shares the fascinating inside story of his life and service during World War II.

    Roxane says: "Interesting Listen for WWII Buffs"
    "The Enemy Way"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    The first time I learned about code talkers was over a hot, humid summer in Missouri, during basic training at Ft. Leonard Wood, MO. One of my drill sergeants was part Native American, and he proudly told the story of the unbreakable code Navajos created in World War II.

    Event though Sgt. Duke wasn't one of "the dineh" he was carrying on the Navajo tradition of telling fascinating stories, just as Chester Nez and Judith Schiess Avila do in "Code Talker: The First and Only Memoir By One of the Original Navajo Code Talkers of WWII" (2012).

    The extended title of the book sounds almost too formal, but it is precise in a way Nez must have insisted on. At the end of WWI, a US Army battalion in France used Choctaw soldiers as ad hoc code talkers. Seminoles served as code talkers in Europe in WWII, while Navajos served in the Pacific.

    Nez was one of the original 29 men, fluent in Navajo and English, recruited from schools and reservations in Arizona and New Mexico, to develop a top secret code. The military was desperate: the Japanese had broken every other code, and machine encryption using a one-use code took hours to encrypt and decrypt. Navajo was ideal: it was rarely written at the time (it was well after WWII that the Navajo Nation even agreed on an alphabet); it was extremely difficult for non-native speakers to learn; and Navajos were raised to memorize long stories.

    "Code Talkers" works exceptionally well as an Audible book, especially with the way this story is told. Nez and Avila weave Navajo customs and traditions, such as a medicine bag, into 'a day in battle life' narrative, Nez served as a code talker at Guadalcanal, Bougainville, Guam, Angaur and Peleliu - without ever being allowed to take leave. Nez was about to ship out to Iwo Jima when someone pulled his jacket and realized he'd accumulated enough points to be honorably discharged.

    Nez shipped stateside for a few months of medical care, and then went home to his family and their land. He started to have nightmares, haunted by the 'chindi' (evil remnants) of the hundreds of dead enemy soldiers he'd seen. Nez - and the estimated 400 to 500 other Navajo code talkers - kept their work secret, even when tormented by wicked memories.

    "Code Talkers" has a lengthy description of Navajo sings - including The Enemy Way, a traditional Navajo cure. Nez went through an Enemy Way shortly after his service ended. More than 20 years later, when his work was declassified and he faced too many questions, he went through another Enemy Way ceremony, followed by a Blessing Way. Absolutely fascinating - and, as Nez would have said himself - they worked because he expected them to work.

    David Colacci is an accomplished narrator. Well, that's an understatement after 160+ narrated titles. I don't know if his Navajo pronunciation was correct or not, with the exception of the handful of Navajo words I've heard spoken by native speakers - and those sounded right to me. But, as good as Colacci is in this Audible, I wish Tantor had found a native Navajo speaker to narrate this. The actual language is just that important. This is the first time I'm giving a Colacci audible less than a 5, but it's not a Colacci Issue: it's a producer problem.

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    11 of 15 people found this review helpful

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